By MacKenzie MacDonald
Elm Staff Writer
Students at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. are protesting the lack of action taken by the university after an alleged off-campus domestic violence incident. Concerningly, the wider student body was not made aware of the incident until days later. This led many students to question how domestic violence incidents should be handled on college campuses nationwide.
According to First State Update, the incident was reported by the female victim on Oct. 8. Preliminary investigations found that at about 4 a.m. the victim was at an off-campus apartment with her ex-boyfriend and fellow UD student, Brandon Freyre. According to Lt. Andrew Rubin of the Newark Police Department, a verbal altercation between the two quickly became physically violent.
Protests began the afternoon of Oct. 12, both in response to the University’s lack of communication regarding the incident and in response to such a violent attack occurring on campus.
According to an Instagram caption posted by UD student Kiera Spann, over 500 students were involved in protesting. Photos and videos posted to Spann’s Instagram account depict students holding signs adorned with messages of disapproval, including “protect women,” “boys will be boys held accountable for their…actions,” and “being a victim of violence shouldn’t be a part of the ‘college experience.’”
These messages reveal how upset the incident made UD’s campus community. These feelings are justifiable. Students deserve to feel safe while on their college campus, so it makes sense that students are outraged that a peer suffered from such a brutal assault.
The incident is further complicated by the University’s lack of response.
According to Spann, she found out about Freyre’s arrest via text message from a friend days after it happened; nothing was said by UD’s administration and no one received any safety notifications that the assault occurred.
“Everyone was outraged by the fact that the University had said nothing, even though it was committed to and by a UD student,” Spann said.
The University responded to this outrage, but its explanations were shaky at best.
“This was a dating violence incident,” UD Director of External Relations Andrea Boyle said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “We utilize an alert system for imminent threats, where students need to take action.” According to Rolling Stone, when asked why an assault on a student did not qualify as an imminent threat, Boyle declined to comment.
Universities have a responsibility to keep their students safe and to make them aware of all the potential dangers on campus. Even though Freyre was in custody, the University should have made a comment about what happened. The severity of the incident and the fact that Freyre was granted bail lend themselves toward urgency. Students had the right to know that a dangerous individual was present on campus.
The University did not respond to the incident until Oct. 25, over two weeks after the attack occurred. The response came in the form of a link, posted to the university’s Instagram account.
“We are writing to acknowledge the harm inflicted, denounce the violence reported, and call for our community to come together and advance our goals of a campus climate free of all violence, including gender-based violence and violence against women,” the statement said.
Many students and community members are still outraged, and some believe that the University could have done more. Freyre has since been expelled from UD and barred from his fraternity, but these repercussions do little to address how the incident was initially handled and publicized.
When colleges and universities fail to acknowledge violent incidents on campus, it makes the students feel unsafe. As a result, students may feel that their school does not actually care about the students’ well-being. By not making a statement right away, it makes it seem like the school cares more about its reputation than the safety of its students. Additionally, safety is one of the most important things on a college campus. Students need to be made aware of potential dangers as soon as they are known to college officials.
It is important for the process of reporting sexual assault, or any kind of assault, to be as easy and painless as possible so that the victim can have peace of mind. It is also important to current and prospective students that the college or university they are applying to takes allegations of assault seriously and that they are dealt with in a timely manner.
Here at Washington College, the Diversity Committee is trying to improve the reporting system for bias and sexual assault incidents on campus through their Strategic Diversity Initiative. This endeavor is important, and urgent, as is made evident by the UD protests.
In order for colleges and universities, including WC, to promote safety within their community, assaults of any nature should be taken seriously and handled immediately. Campus communities should be kept informed, and consequences should be determined with haste.